Why Writing about My Family Makes Me a Better Mom

My desk

I recently saw the new movie Mom’s Night Out and loved it. Very funny and a great expression of what so many moms struggle with—the meaning of all the stuff we do, the way we feel that we’re not very good at any of it, and our sense of guilt about if we have everything we thought we ever wanted, why aren’t we happier about it?

Like me, the main character begins to resolve these questions by blogging.

I loved that the movie showed her processing (and sharing) her experiences of motherhood this way, even though I don’t love the term “mommy blogger.” It seems like a patronizing pat on the head, a way of dismissing the writing that moms do as not “real” writing.

So I reject this label. Yet in theme and in content, I am, pretty much, a mommy blogger. 🙂

It surprises me sometimes how much I like to write about my family. Apart from that old saw of “Write what you know” and the fact that it is just plainly and simply my life, I write about my family because, well, I’m a writer. I hear so many moms who want to write worry about the selfishness of taking time away from their family to do something that will likely never bring in much, if any, money. For many, it feels like such a selfish hobby to pursue. I understand these tendencies, and even though I was a writer and editor before becoming a mom, I still struggle with justifying every moment I spend away from my boys. Even as I drive to the coffee shop where I do much of my writing, I invariably see a helicopter or a fire engine and long to point them out to my sons. Or I see a mom and her children come into the coffee shop, and I feel that twinge of missing my boys and wondering if I should be with them instead of doing whatever it is I’m doing.

Yet I strongly believe that pursuing activities and dreams of our own, whether they ever pay off financially or not, is not taking away from our children but instead a gift to them.

It is a gift to our children when we as moms have something else that fulfills us in addition to the very fulfilling and meaningful job of parenting. For our children to be our only source of fulfillment, our sole focus, it seems to me is not so much a gift but potentially a burden to them. I would like for my children to know that as they grow older and have more and varied interests away from our family, and one day prepare to leave our home, that Mom will have something else to do that also makes her happy. Not instead of them, but “in addition to.”

I don’t think this is selfish; I think it is life-giving.

It’s also worth thinking about the important lesson we teach our children when we work hard at something. New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber says that in watching and sharing her struggles to write and to get published, her kids learned to work hard and to fight to make their own dreams come true.

But most importantly, I write about my family, and my children in particular, because when I step apart from my life long enough to try to articulate parts of it in words, it helps me tremendously to see the meaning in all of it. Writing has always been a process of discovery for me, in which I mull over an anecdote in order to tease out a larger meaning. This process can be exhilarating and it can be frustrating—sometimes both, particularly when I find myself seeking to extract meaning on deadline. But the process itself is so valuable. Without writing about my daily life, I fear I would all too often miss the larger picture, the theological significance of so many of the ordinary and dull and time-worn things I do each day.

It can be hard to view those tasks as God-ordained when you’re in the middle of them, while you’re changing that diaper or fielding that tantrum or answering the plaintive call of “Where are you, Mommy?” for the 47 time when all you want to do is just use the bathroom in peace. It’s why those grandmotherly types constantly stop you in the street and exhort you to enjoy every minute of it. It’s a lot easier to see what a privilege it is to be entrusted with the care of tiny people God has created when you have the opportunity to step back from it here and there. Then I can start to appreciate better those moments when I’m actually in them—especially those particularly non-glamorous moments, like when I’m called to the bathroom in the middle of the cooking club I’m hosting in order to help wipe or I’m trying to firmly but kindly convince my four-year-old that it’s time to leave the playground.

So this time I spend in front of my computer is not wasted time. I don’t believe it’s a selfish pursuit either. I believe, in fact, that writing about motherhood helps to make me a better mom. A mom more appreciative of all she has and how much God has blessed her.

A mom able to discern, ever-so-dimly, the meaning in the mundane.

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